'Old-school' Gardenhire open to using analytics

Detroit's new skipper 'not going to stop learning' as team modernizes

October 20th, 2017

DETROIT -- The last time the Tigers hired a manager, their analytics department consisted of one person in baseball operations. Now, the department has grown to eight, and it is headquartered two doors down from general manager Al Avila's office at Comerica Park. When Ron Gardenhire came through before his introductory press conference Friday, he couldn't help but see it.
"They sent me in there right away," Gardenhire joked. "Al said, 'I want you to meet these guys and girls.'"
Considering Gardenhire's reputation as an old-school manager, and some of his previous comments about analytics while he managed the Twins, he wasn't going to pass by without introducing himself.
"I just went through the analytics department, and I told every one of those guys I love them," Gardenhire said, "because they're going to help me. I told them I love them and I can't wait to start working with them."
The Tigers' hiring of Gardenhire seems like it diverges from their well-publicized buildup in new-school analytics. However, while Gardenhire said he learned a great deal about analytics while spending this season with the D-backs as Torey Lovullo's bench coach, Detroit said Gardenhire's openness to new information made it comfortable with him in the manager's office.
"Everybody needs help with it. Fortunately for me, this last summer with the Diamondbacks, I got involved with it and actually saw it working firsthand," Gardenhire said. "I saw the information, so I could see how much is out there. I don't know if it's new knowledge, but it's sure put in a lot of different ways and makes a lot of sense. It was a lot of fun. …
"I don't mind being called old-school, because we all learned to play baseball old-school. But we also know there's a lot of new ways out there, and if you stop learning, you're probably screwed. I don't want to be screwed, so I'm not going to stop learning."

Avila said he talked about Gardenhire with D-backs general manager Mike Hazen, who told him Gardenhire had learned a lot about analytics and had a willingness to learn. That openness, in addition to his experience, was what he wanted to hear.
"He is the most qualified guy out there. How could you deny that?" Avila said. "When you put together what he has learned, where his mind is open now to the new information and being able to use it, it's really the perfect situation."
Most of what the Tigers have done with analytics so far, Avila said, has involved player acquisition, from Draft preparation to trades to free agents. It was part of their catch-up process, which Avila said has brought them closer to the middle of the pack compared with other organizations.
The Tigers are now developing more information that they can use on the field. Former manager Brad Ausmus would ask for information from time to time that they could produce on a case-by-case basis. They're now closer to having data they can use regularly.
"Now, as we move forward in building the analytics department, we will have even more information for the manager on the field, for the pitching coach, for the players themselves," Avila said.